The Law offices of Arnold & Smith - John Price Carr House
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Child Support and the Special Needs Child

If you are going through a divorce, one of the most stressful negotiating points is often child support. Even more challenges exist regarding couples who are divorcing with a special needs child. Children with special needs inherently need more attention and require additional assistance in some capacity. While divorce can be stressful under any circumstance, divorcing with a special needs child can bring additional challenges to divorce negotiations, specifically as it relates to child support calculations. If you are divorcing in North Carolina with a special needs child, the following may help give you a better understanding of your legal rights and obligations.

Special Needs Children

Special needs children encompass many different types of children that have unique physical and emotional needs. While there is not a clear-cut answer regarding how child support will be determined regarding the special needs child, it is important to directly address the fact that these children will inherently require additional support. This could be routine doctor visits, daily assistance to do regular tasks, special education requirements, and more. In some circumstances, a special needs child may never be able to live independently, which will absolutely impact the child support order in a divorce case. The courts in the state of North Carolina are clear that it is the responsibility of both parents to care emotionally and financially for their children in all cases.

Child Support and the Special Needs Child

Child support and child custody matters are inherently related. When one parent spends more time with the child, they inherently spend more money in order to take care of that child, which is why the other parent typically is required to pay a certain amount of child support. When there is a special needs child, one parent may have to have full physical custody in order to help the child with their educational needs or physical needs throughout the day. In some cases, one parent may be unable to return to work due to the fact that they will be the primary caregiver that a special needs child will require to help them every day. This custody arrangement is unique and will inevitably impact child support calculations.

Typically, child support calculations are based on the amount of time that one parent spends with the child. If one parent is spending all of their time taking care of a special needs child, it is likely that the child support calculations will reflect that additional need for financial support. Additionally, the child may need physical or mental health therapy or ongoing medical treatments, or medications that will qualify as extraordinary expenses. It is impossible to completely address all of the unique financial needs of every special needs child, however, it is safe to say that the calculations of child support when there is a special needs child involved in a divorce will be much more challenging than that of a divorce without a special needs child.

Calculations of Child Support

The State of North Carolina has very specific guidelines as it relates to the calculation of child support. However, in cases with special needs children, it is critical that both parents and attorneys understand that the basic needs of the child should come first. Providing an environment in which the child will have an opportunity to grow and thrive will be in both the parents and the child’s best interests. Visiting with an experienced family law attorney will help ensure that both your rights and the rights of your child are protected.

Child Support Modifications

Even though you have a special needs child and may be required by court order to pay child support, there are always circumstances under which a child support order may be modified. These modifications must be done through the North Carolina court system. In order to modify any child support order for a special needs child (or for any child), one parent must petition the court with evidence that there was a substantial change in circumstances either with the parent or with the special needs child. A substantial change is presumed if three years have passed since the entry of the last order and there is at least a 15% difference in the amount of support currently ordered and the amount of support that would arise under a present application of the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines.

Contact an Experienced Divorce Attorney

If you are considering a divorce with a special needs child, contact an experienced divorce attorney in greater Charlotte area of North Carolina to help you understand how best to calculate child support in your unique circumstance. Contact an experienced divorce attorney at Arnold & Smith, PLLC at 704.370.2828 or online today to schedule a consultation.